Staff and unions fear Seven Seas' Hull factory will close sooner than planned
STAFF and unions at Seven Seas say they fear plans to keep the Hull plant open for two to three years are "ambitious".
The company launched a 90-day consultation with staff last month over proposals to outsource manufacturing and packaging from its factory in Hedon Road.
The move would also see the firm's commercial operations switch to London, leaving 249 workers facing an uncertain future.
At the time, the company estimated if the proposals were accepted by workers, there would be a phased shutdown of the site over a period of two to three years.
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However, workers say they fear the site could close much sooner than that.
One worker told the Mail: "A number of roles have already been outsourced from Hull over the past year.
"The canteen and the staff there were outsourced earlier in the year, while the security has been done by another company for quite a while.
"I think it will take far less than two or even three years to outsource the packaging and manufacturing."
The site in Hedon Road currently has a bottling plant as well as a oil processing facility. It also manufactures and packs blister packaging.
Dave Oglesby, full-time officer with the GMB union in Hull, said: "It is quite frustrating that we have asked for specifics about why the Hull facility is earmarked for closure but have been told it is just not economically viable.
"However, I'm meeting with the company next week when, hopefully, we will find out more about the future of the site.
"There are quite a range of activities at the Hull site but I think if the work was outsourced, two to three years for a phased closure is ambitious. I wouldn't be surprised if it started in the new year."
Workers have also described the company's sponsorship of the ITV weather bulletin – at a time when 269 jobs are at risk – as "insensitive".
One said: "We are being told keeping Hull open is not financially viable, yet advertising on prime-time television doesn't come cheap."
Mr Oglesby said: "Seven Seas is still a strong brand.
"I can see why some people would question why they are spending money on advertising at a time when hundreds of workers are worrying about their jobs, but I guess they are trying to reach as many people as possible and drive sales at a time when consumer spending is down."
Seven Seas said the consultation was ongoing and no decision would be made about the future of the Hull site until the 90-day period came to an end.
It also said the potential two to three-year phased closure was an estimated timeframe, which had been based on a number of factors.
These included the time it would take to transfer processes to outsourced companies.